This past January American heavyweight Deontay Wilder 33-0 (32) won a 12-round unanimous decision over WBC title holder Bermane Stiverne to capture the title. With the win, Wilder became the first American to hold a share of the heavyweight title since 2006, when Shannon Briggs held the WBO version.
This weekend Wilder will make his first defense against Eric Molina 23-2 (17) in his hometown of Tuscaloosa Alabama, known as “Title Town” of college football.
Tuscaloosa is where the Alabama Crimson Tide Football team calls home. The Crimson Tide have won more FBS National championships than any other team in college football to date, and three under current head coach Nick Saban, with the last being in 2012.
Wilder stands 6'7″ and is regarded as being a knockout puncher in much the same vein as Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev. All three own some of the highest KO percentages among active title claimants. However, based on their opposition, Golovkin and Kovalev are accepted as being more authentic when it comes to possessing one punch fight-ending power, and that's probably a fair assessment. When it comes to evaluating punchers, it's not how many fighters a particular fighter has stoppage wins over, it's who he's stopped, that is the ultimate lie detector in regards to whether or not his power is legitimate. And unfortunately, Wilder, regardless of how impressive he may look in dispatching Molina, that question will not be answered conclusively. And that's because Molina is not seen as being all that durable, being he was stopped in the first round by Chris Arreola back in February of 2012.
As for a brief summation of 6'4″ Molina, there's not much. He's relatively slow with some semblance of a right hand, but has no corresponding offense to go with it. He did manage to stun the easy to hit Arreola with a good right hand before he ate a left hook to the right temple and was dropped by a follow up right hand to the left temple. Since being stopped by Arreola, Molina is 5-0 (4) with the only recognizable name of the five being DaVarryl Williamson who he stopped in the fifth round in May of 2014. So if you size up Wilder and Molina, Wilder has every conceivable advantage that one fighter could hold over another pertaining to their skill-set and physicality. Deontay should be able to do whatever he wants to do against the over-matched Molina, and he better because his critics will be watching closely.
One thing is for sure about Wilder that cannot be questioned, he is a very hard worker and he sees the big picture when surveying boxing's future landscape. He recently said:
“Floyd Mayweather seems to be coming to the end. Boxing needs me to take over. I believe I can be the exciting new face. There is nothing better than the heavyweights to keep the boom going. The fans love the big men. Historically ours is the sport’s marquee division and it’s great for the game that it is coming back to life. It’s also time to bring back the undisputed heavyweight championship to America, where it belongs.”
Give Wilder his props, he gets it and I believe he also gets that action packed fights/fighters are what draw fans to certain pugilist and bouts. Boxing is foaming at the mouth for a show stopping big-punching heavyweight to take the baton from the Klitschko's after a decade of utter dominance. Wilder will be ripped in the media for defending his title against a fighter like Molina, but in all fairness to him, the current heavyweight landscape isn't loaded with fighters the likes of Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers, Tim Witherspoon, Michael Dokes and fighters of that ilk. And if you think about it, as formidable as the two best heavyweights since Lennox Lewis retired, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko were, both built their title tenures beating guys like Eric Molina in title bouts, and more often than not in convincing fashion. And that's what elite fighters should do against pedestrian opposition. So Wilder better get rid of Molina impressively to quell the negative chatter.
The question we don't know is whether or not Wilder is elite. However, there are some emerging heavyweights on the horizon for Wilder to test himself against to prove he just may be, like Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Bryant Jennings and Vyacheslav Glazkov. And he just may get a shot at Wladimir Klitschko before too long, and if he can beat even a declining Klitschko, he will have surpassed most expectations on him and set himself up nicely for some meaningful bouts that just may garner some noteworthy attention.
Wilder is in a no win position against Molina because he's expected to demolish him this weekend. If he struggles, he'll be a bum in the eyes of the media and fans. And if he blows him out, he beat a stiff. But at least that will keep the interest in him alive. The latter is much better for him.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME